Mitchell: Lack of U.S. Involvement in Mideast Could Lead to Outbreak of Violence

U.S. envoy tells a Maine television network that no president would stand by and let the Mideast conflict erupt as it would not be in America's strategic interests.

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Barak Ravid
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ברק רביד - צרובה
Barak Ravid

U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell said on Thursday in an interview on The Maine Public Broadcasting Network that the United States government would not terminate its involvement in the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, as a lack of U.S. involvement in the region could lead to an outbreak of violence.

"I think that any president would not simply stand by and let a conflict erupt because it would not be in our interest,' Mitchell said.

Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.Credit: AP

"One of the reasons we are involved there is because it is within the strategic interests and national interests of the United States that the conflict be resolved. I do think that we have to stay involved because our interest is at stake, and a principal point is that an eruption of violence or some other negative act could occur at any time with unforeseeable consequences," Mitchell added.

Mitchell responded in the interview to a column written by Tom Freidman from the New York Times in which Friedman called for the U.S. government to leave the Palestinians and Israelis and let them handle the ramifications of the collapsed peace talks by themselves.

"Just recently I appeared with former Secretary of State James Baker, who famously did what Tom recommended in his column," Mitchell said.

In 1990, when then Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir refused to accept Baker's peace initiative ahead of the Madrid Conference, Baker read out the White House' phone number at a press conference and said that when the Israelis were serious about peace, they should call them.

Mitchell said in the interview that Baker told him that back in 1990 it was also Tom Freidman who suggested that he pursue that course of action, "and that was nearly 20 years ago," Mitchell said.

"Its not a new idea, but it’s a relevant one, and is presented by Tom, as usual, in a very persuasive manner. If I had any disagreement with him, and it’s a modest one, in that same column he said that if it [peace talks] breaks down, let them worry about the consequences, I think that's not likely to happen. That if there were a breakdown, including, god forbid, an eruption of violence, that there is no way that the United States would stand aside and let them take the consequences; the demands by the parties, by other countries in the region and indeed by the entire world, for U.S. action to try to deal with the consequences, would be high, and appropriately so, and I think that any president would not simply stand by and let a conflict erupt."

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